VL Raza

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It’s something short of a miracle to experience music live, with unnerving proximity, that makes the air thick with surrender: that which weight we bear and carry with toil.
 
It turns any space, where friends and lonesome bodies commune, to a place of respite—the outside world ceasing to exist all at once. Suddenly, we become strangers without a story. We are present and willing, anxiously expecting. “I can’t wait,” we often say. Then the waiting ends, the music plays, and everyone moves with total abandon. To experience is to be.
 
I guess this really is the most uncomplicated reason why I go through all the hoops to make shows a possibility. It’s personal. It’s not a noble cause to save or revive what was said to be dead.
 
I do it to keep on keeping on. I just want to continue to be.
 
(P.S. Tom’s Story, thank you always for helping me somehow make sense of the world.)
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Everything is Everything

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​I finished reading Hanif Abdurraqib’s ‘They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us’ ​just a few hours before I took the bus to Manila last Friday to prepare for Summer Noise. The way he writes about music is, to paraphrase, “not about what is happening, but what it means.” And I think as I got older and, I hope, wiser, I do my best to adopt that sentiment—not just on how I write, but how I apply it to the things I create.

Over the last three years, I considered The Rest Is Noise as something bigger than myself. I have always been comfortable in the background (or at the front row, always in the best company of strangers and friends alike) because there has never been any space that music has not touched and we are all communing with it—no matter who you are, who you love, and where you came from.

So this is what I think it means.

“Man, listen. Everything is everything.” Music is people is friendship is freedom is living is breathing is connection is hope is past is present is future is together is all of us is music is music is music is everything.

I remember the many times during the show when I had to raise my head up, eyes closed, and I imagine everyone else lost in the same brief darkness we all shared beyond the walls of a brief world we built and shared together, with the certain hope and a promise fulfilled that when we open our eyes, everything in that moment will be filled with light.

A Family of Immigrants

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“They say people in your life are seasons.”
– Kanye West, Heard Em Say

“Conceive true deception multiplied a million fold
Visualize the yin and yang in a battle so intense
That we get em confused
The resident evil specialize in misconstruing
We wanna be at a presidential level, what are we doing?
Fooling our self, clowning our self, playing our self
By not being our self
We can’t babble no more than we can bob our head offbeat
Nimrod by the time we forty cause we can’t get our meat
While we ask no reason for the misplacement of the season
Look at the picture that’s painted
Tainted as the mind who’s blinded to the point”
Outkast, 13th Floor (Growing Old)

‘The Evolution of the Human Heart’

 

They had become each other that summer. And long after every forked road in life had done its work this would always be true. Their lives scarcely touched in those weeks together, but they had crossed to the other side, where time stops and heaven reaches down to earth and gives us that ration of what is from birth divinely ours. They could look the other way and speak of everything but, they would always know. They had found the stars, Elio and Oliver. And this is given once only.

– A narration from James Ivory’s script for Call Me By Your Name

It took me almost a year before I watched Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight for the second time – a work so boundless, yet profoundly intimate. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I knew that the raw experience of watching Chiron’s story unfold, the joy and pain I felt is tethered to, like many things, time. And that the closer that I am to revisiting those feelings are frightening, like exploring the unknown unprepared. At some point, unwelcome. Fear does that to me. A futile sentiment, perhaps.

And then barely a year later, I watched Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. It was paralyzing in ways that feel like I will never gain residency of my body again. The intimacy is unnerving. I didn’t know how to articulate it best until I read Anthony Lane’s review for The New Yorker and then just before the year ended, a most sensitive time for many, myself included, I read a tweet from Barry Jenkins, who just saw what I knew then was going to be my other favorite film of all time, apart from Moonlight.

“…access [to] one’s true self.”

I have not watched Call Me By Your Name again since December. I admit I am not liberated of my fears yet, and those create platoons of anxiety ready to attack anytime, pluck me from my state of treasured uneventfulness. But what if those aren’t meant to be conquered? What if they are what Mr. Perlman meant when he said, “But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!” In another film that Timothee Chalamet starred in, Miss Stevens (2016), his character (in some kind of character foreshadowing for Elio) said, in a key scene towards the end, “The pills that I take to make me not sad, they make me feel nothing. Those are my options: sad or numb.”

Between these two films, I have not been in a good place, to say the least. The experience varied from suffocation to emptiness. But unlike the two films, there was no romance involved in my story. However, what I eventually realized from watching both Moonlight and Call Me By Your Name with utmost certainty, one as assuring as air is to breathing, is that I relate to these films, to these characters who are so different from me, yet so similar, not through their relationships with other people, but through their discoveries of themselves.

All along, what I thought was my undoing is my becoming.

Chiron and Kevin. Elio and Oliver.

Myself.

ALBUM: ‘questioning answers / answering questions’ – rhxanders

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In a world that is increasingly becoming man vs technology, wielding a deeply introspective work with a vocoder to speak of uniquely human experiences is a class of its own. We’ve never been more connected with the rest of the world, but with ‘questioning answers / answering questions’, rhxanders also bridges the often complicated relationship we have with ourselves.

P.S. That ‘Summer Madness’ (Kool & The Gang) vibe in ‘is it real?’ is a nice touch.

Turning Three

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The Rest Is Noise turns three today. Historically speaking, we never celebrated its birthday in February and this time isn’t any different. We have the Summer Noise show for that in May. (Full disclosure: I can only wield any form of time management whenever bigger show season looms over my negligible social calendar. Regardless, I take it as a win on self-improvement.)

I’d like to share some things about our journey so far.

The toughest part of it so far was the 2017 year-end show. It was stressful and I was struggling to keeping it together for myself and those around me, and to unearth certain unpleasant and degrading memories from the past certainly didn’t help. Thankfully enough, we powered through because I have faith in the good and ultimately with doing what’s right and the support we received was incomparable.

When it comes to the smaller gigs, it’s a constant work. Looking back, our first year was by far our easiest—our comfort zone—but Ian and I both knew we had to bust out of that. Like anything else, we need to grow. I wouldn’t say that there’s a concrete agenda, except for just wanting to create a space that’s more inclusive and something I personally would want to be in. Hence, hip-hop/electronic/R&B (or all) had to always be there. Curiously enough, the audience for this remains to be ‘niche’, and that has never sit well with me not because I don’t respect that everyone has his/her/their own taste but the notion that somehow there’s no audience for these. I don’t think so. I completely understand the sentiment of the tiresome rhetoric of a handful of bands touted as the forefront of Filipino music, and to me I see it as a challenge as a fan and someone who happens to also curates shows. I believe that music of all things should be a space for all.

From the financial point of view, I refuse to think that there cannot be a compromise especially if you have faith in what you do and are capable of. It’s NOT easy to secure money, but with insight and creative spirit, you can shoot for the moon. Be limitless.
This is by no means a manual for anything. I still get anxious 90% of the time, I/we get broke, there are arguments and heated discussions, and we sure as hell have plenty to learn.

If anything, TRIN is a personal challenge and above all being more responsible and conscientious by acknowledging what it is for other people and possibly means to them (and to an extent, how to navigate around that), and do what we can to what must be a collective endeavor for a music scene that’s supposed to be about music.

Still here!

Wow. It’s been quite a year. I’ve actually been busy writing for some music websites and I feel like I’ve abandoned my own blog.

A quick summary of what I’ve been up to, writing- and music-wise since my last post in December of 2016:

  • Celebrated the 2nd anniversary of my music event production, The Rest Is Noise PH
  • Wrote artist features (NINNO, Run Dorothy, similarobjects, TheSunManager, No Rome, and Calix) for Purveyr’s 2nd and 3rd issue, with the 4th one underway (RH Xanders, Jess Connelly, and She’s Only Sixteen)
  • Wrote a feature about Curtismith for Purveyr
  • Attended Laneway in Singapore
  • Watched Liam Gallagher and Bohan Phoenix (and wrote about those for Bandwagon Philippines)
  • Wrote liner notes for three BuwanBuwan Collective album releases: Owle’s self-titled EP, thisbeing_’s soft hands and Justo’s Catching Orbits
  • Wrote liner notes for Lions and Acrobats’ sophomore album, Mundane
  • Side note: I saw all films in competition for two local film festivals this year: Cinemalaya and Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino

That’s as much as I can recall for now.

On a personal side, I’ve had a tough 2016 and the most part of 2017. All of my uncles migrated to California since late 2015. They are the best uncles one can ever ask for – flaws and all. In August this year, I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression and took a combination of medication to ‘rewire’ my brain, so to speak. It was ugly, but it was also illuminating. I found comfort in my family and my close friends. I keep a pretty small circle of trusted people – all of whom have been extremely supportive.

I’ve been hospitalized for I think twice the past two years: one of which was due to, as I suspect, anxiety since there was nothing visibly wrong with me but I cannot sleep due to difficulty of breathing, chest pains, body weakness, and then there’s my hyperactive brain that won’t quit thinking of glum things (i.e. dying right then and there).

Also, after almost four years, I left MicroCreatives because I was simply not mentally functioning anymore. Everything feels amplified and I crack under the least amount of pressure. I’m just thankful that I’ve been receiving a decent amount of freelance work to stay afloat and not touch my savings. I’ve also found ways to earn extra cash like sell old/unused clothes and CDs.

Then of course, The Rest Is Noise. We had, I think, only six gigs this year – fewer than 2015 and 2016. As opposed to a two-nights-every-two-months, we hosted one every two or three (even four) months. Our upcoming show, The Rest Is Noise Year-End 2017, is our biggest yet and I’ve been handling promotions and branding (the latter of which, I’ve been doing since day one), and it’s been both exciting and challenging at the same time. It’s been a fulfilling role and, in many ways, therapeutic exercise for me.

So that pretty much covers it. I book another flight to Singapore (my third visit!) in January to watch Laneway with a few friends and get around longer. I feel more alive than ever and my hope has never extinguished.

See you next Saturday for our final show of the year!